September 11, 2009

When Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted “you lie!” at President Obama during his speech on national healthcare, the congressman made headlines, was denounced by his fellow lawmakers and he apologized for his bad behavior. Wilson should have apologized but he was right—as lying is what our government does best.

Said Obama Wednesday night:

In 1935, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism, but the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress—Democrats and Republicans—did not back down.

Today Social Security and Medicare are hopelessly bankrupt and survive as unfunded liabilities with deficits in the trillions. Those who advocated for these programs promised this would never happen. When Social Security was enacted a primary concern was that one day it might be used as form of personal identification. “Never” claimed Social Security proponents.

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When President George W. Bush led us into war with Iraq, we were told it was to find weapons of mass destruction, would only cost a few billion dollars and perhaps last a few weeks. No WMDs, $3 trillion dollars and six years later, many say Bush lied. Near the end of his last term, Bush and the “men and women of Congress stood fast” to pass a bailout of Wall Street, or the “Troubled Asset Relief Program,” they said was necessary to fix a plummeting economy. The economy continued to plummet and $700 billion in taxpayer dollars was either wasted or remains unaccounted for. TARP was not necessary.

In addition to supporting TARP, passing his own $800 billion dollar stimulus, and presumably being willing to pay for a war in Afghanistan at least as expensive as Iraq, President Obama now wants to pass national healthcare legislation he estimates will cost about $900 billion. Obama also promises this program will not skimp on end-of-life healthcare or feature “death panels,” will not be used for abortions, will not cover illegal aliens or add to the deficit. Despite our government’s dismal record on predicting either the cost of its own legislation or the results of its implementation – from Social Security in 1935 to Cash-for-Clunkers this year – is it unreasonable to doubt the president’s seemingly impossible claims about the success of national healthcare?

Rep. Wilson’s outburst was aimed at Obama’s insistence that illegal aliens will not be covered by the proposed healthcare plan. I’m not even sure Obama believes this. States like California are a financial wreck in large part due to unfunded federal mandates that force states to provide education, healthcare and other social services to illegal aliens. If the federal government cannot even perform its constitutional duty of keeping illegal aliens out of the country, who believes it will now keep illegals from enjoying new government benefits, many of which they already partake in now?  

Obama urged Congress to pass healthcare legislation by invoking Ted Kennedy, whose lifelong goal had been enacting universal coverage. But the late senator also had a lifelong record of being wrong in his predictions, particularly on the issue of immigration. After the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which relaxed U.S. immigration policy, Kennedy said “our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually.” Kennedy was right – American cities were flooded with far more than a million. In 1986, Kennedy said of granting amnesty to illegal aliens “This amnesty will give citizenship to only 1.1 to 1.3 million illegal aliens. We will secure the borders henceforth.  We will never again bring forward another amnesty bill like this.” The borders never were secured and in 2007 another bill was proposed to grant amnesty to the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens who had arrived since 1986. It was called “McCain-Kennedy.”

Whether Kennedy lied or was just wildly inaccurate is a semantic argument. What is hardly arguable is that Kennedy was emblematic of the chronic government incompetence that Obama now insists will not curse healthcare. On illegal aliens and healthcare, Wilson has the upper hand in his logic, if not his decorum.

But besides his bad behavior, Wilson’s greatest mistake was in limiting his critique to just one aspect of the proposed healthcare plan. Unlike many conservatives, I don’t find it necessary to attribute all sorts of devious motives to President Obama. Calling Obama a “socialist” is accurate, but he is simply the latest in a long line of socialist presidents who gave us Social Security, Medicare and other expansions of an ever-growing welfare state that too many Americans consider their birthright. Obama rightly realizes that the surest way for him to be included amongst the so-called “great” presidents is for his big government contribution to be the biggest and best to date. And in addition to invoking, touting and romanticizing the many statist achievements of those who came before him, Obama will also continue their tradition of telling any lie necessary to establish his own legacy.


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